… UCC Don Hits Back At Plagiarism Critics
By Emmanuel Akli
The head of the Communications Department of the University of Cape Coast, Dr Eric Opoku Mensah, has called on the media, and Ghanaians in general, to focus on the important issues raised by President Akufo-Addo in his inaugural speech, instead of dwelling on the alleged plagiarism, which he considers as trivial.
According to him, all over the world, such references are made in major speeches, but the speakers do not necessarily mention the source of the statement, pointing out that the speech would become monotonous if references are made to all those who had earlier made the statement being quoted.
Speaking to Captain Smart on Adom FM yesterday, and a follow up interview with The Chronicle via phone, Dr Opoku Mensah said President Akufo-Addo raised a number of important issues that ought to have been discussed, but have been swept under the carpet, with the plagiarism claim rather taking centre stage.
During his inaugural address at the Independence Square in Accra on Saturday, President Akufo-Addo said: “Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Ghanaians have been a restless, questing, hopeful people. And we must bring to our task today, the vision and will of those who came before us.”
The statement, it is alleged, contained the exact words President Clinton used during his inaugural address in 1993. It reads: “Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. And Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. We must bring to our task today, the vision and will of those who come before us.”
President Akufo-Addo also said: “I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens building your communities and our nation.” These are also said to be the same words used by George Bush in 2001. That statement reads: “I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens building communities of service and a nation of character.”
Following the media blitz over the alleged plagiarism, the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin, took to his face book wall to apologise. “My attention has been drawn to references being made to a statement in the speech delivered by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at his swearing in on Saturday, January 7, 2017, which was not duly acknowledged.”
“I unreservedly apologise for the non-acknowledgement of this quote to the original author. It was a complete oversight, and never deliberate. It is insightful to note that in the same speech were quotes from Dr. J.B Danquah, Dr. K.A. Busia, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the Bible, which were all duly attributed and acknowledged.”
But, despite the apology rendered by Arhin, the issue has still taken centre stage, and this is the worry of Dr. Eric Opoku Mensah, a political communications expert and presidential rhetoric.
According to him, this is not the first time in the history of Ghana that such a high profile statement had been made without recourse to the originators of the statement.
The UCC Lecturer told The Chronicle that “Our independence would be meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African Continent”, the famous statement made by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah on the day Ghana gained her independence from British Colonial rule, was actually lifted from the resolution passed by the Pan African Congress, which was held in Manchester in 1945.
Dr Opoku Mensah further told this reporter that another famous statement: “Ethiopia shall stretch her hand to God,” which was made by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah during the first Organisation of African Unity (OAU) congress in 1963, was actually quoted from the Holy Bible, but the statement was made popular earlier by Marcus Garvey, a pan Africanist.
He again made reference to another statement made by Kwame Nkrumah in the colonial parliament in 1953 (Motion of Independence), of which the last part was lifted from a British poet.
According to the political communications expert, in all these speeches, Nkrumah never acknowledged the source of his statements, but he was never attacked, because is it a normal practice in speech writing.
Dr. Opoku Mensah referred Ghanaians to American politics,and said, when a Democrat or Republican president elect is about to deliver his inaugural speech, his speech writers would go into the archives and study some of the speeches delivered by previous candidates and lift some of them into the speech of the president-elect. In most of these cases, he said, not all the quotes are referenced.
He has, therefore, called on journalists and the general public to focus their attention on what the President said, and stop concentrating on the plagiarism, which would not benefit any Ghanaian.
The University Don also advised Ghanaians to distinguish between academic work and speeches delivered by important personalities such as presidents. He noted that in academic work, it is a crime to use one’s work without acknowledging the one who first came out with the idea or invention.
That crime is popularly referred to as plagiarism. He, however, argued that it would be wrong for anyone to accuse a president of plagiarism for using a quote from a colleague president or any popular person’s speech.